Belfast Telegraph

Doctors fail to win back cash rewards

Professional body representing doctors in Northern Ireland has lost a legal challenge to the stopping of cash prizes for exceptional consultants.

The British Medical Association brought High Court proceedings over the decision not to make any new clinical excellence awards (CEAs) in 2010-2011.

It claimed the Department of Health was wrong to treat the awards as payment and to subject them to a public sector pay freeze.

But a judge dismissed the judicial review challenge, ruling that the characterisation of the awards was within the department's discretion.

Mr Justice Treacy said: “I find that CEAs share enough of the characteristics of payment for it to be reasonable for the respondent to treat them as such.”

More than 60 consultants had submitted applications for higher awards in the 2010-2011 rounds.

But after Chancellor George Osborne announced a pay freeze on all public sector workers earning more than £21,000 in June 2010, the department decided not to issue any new CEAs that year.

Lawyers for the BMA claimed the decision failed to comply with statutory equality obligations.

They argued that a CEA is a pensionable monetary award which rewards clinical excellence, and therefore not ‘pay' in the usual sense of the word.

However, the judge rejected all grounds of challenge.

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